It was a convincing win as Bob Bettencourt led 24 of the 25 laps enroute to victory in his feature: a dramatic turnabout for the former division champion. Two weeks earlier, he had crossed the finish line to the checkered flag, only to have his win denied by engine violations in post-race tech. Bettencourt, owner Linwood Cowen and the team took last week off to put the car right. This week, they returned intent on showing the world that the extras had not been necessary. And Bettencourt was dedicated from the moment that the green flew.
Starting outside the second row, Bettencourt took a look around polesitter Jimmy Belmont and outside starter Chris DeMoura. But before the first lap could be completed, third place starter Ray Negley got together with DeMoura, and their cars became enmeshed, flying off the front stretch into the soft grass between turns one and two. They sank into the rain-softened turf and the wrecker, attempting to extricate them, sank in, also, sending the call out for the ramp truck. Action was halted as they were extracted. DeMoura finally found a gap and was able to separate and drive away, but Negley had to be taken to the pits, ending his night.
Bettencourt restarted outside Belmont and they hacksawed the lead into lap two. Paul Lallier had been looking to dip under Belmont, but was denied and Craig Pianka came up to deprive him of third as Bettencourt took over the lead. Gerard Berthelette drove under Belmont and Scott Serydynski got below Lallier setting the field into a three-wide as Bettencourt eased away at the front.
As Pianka pursued Bettencourt, Scott Serydynski and Pianka bumped, Berthelette spun and continued but Belmont, trying to avoid, went to the wall, taking Scott to the barrier with him. They went to the pits, along with Randy Moretti and the cleanup went on.
Bettencourt and Pianka were at the front for the lap six restart with Scott Bruneau and Berthelette in the second row, Lallier and John Hanafin making up the third. Bettencourt won the drag race out of the starting box and Bruneau edged Pianka underneath for second. Breathing down their backs were Hanafin, Lallier and Crystal Serydynski, who was wheel-to-wheel with Rey Lovelace for sixth. The duo would dispute the position throughout the race.
By lap eleven, Bettencourt was leading a tight bumper-to-bumper pack of Bruneau, Hanafin and Pianka. They began to encounter lapped traffic. Charlie Baldwin, moving quickly up from starting fourteenth, came under Lallier after getting past Crystal and Lovelace. He deprived Lallier of fifth then went under Pianka to fourth.
Lap sixteen saw Austin Blaise around on the backstretch after getting together with Berthelette coming out of the second turn. Jeff Ellis looped on the restart as Lallier got Baldwin almost sideways on the backstretch, and the field relined. Second try saw Bettencourt leave Bruneau out of the box, but Bruneau battled back.
Coming out of turn four, Bruneau was loose and slowed and the field pulled up to avoid him. Pianka was tagged from behind and swerved up the track and took Baldwin up to the wall near the flagstand. Baldwin was up on his side with wheels against the wall, shedding body material before settling back to the track and coming to a halt in turn one. Several cars were caught up in the wreckage
and the red flag flew and ambulances and track crew converged on turn one. No drivers were injured, but Baldwin strode up to Lallier’s car for an extended conversation before walking away.
Bettencourt and Bruneau led off on the lap 21 restart, chased by Hanafin and Lovelace, Charlie Beal and Crystal. The wily Bettencourt pulled away once more but again Bruneau was reeling him in down the backstretch. Again, Bruneau got loose and wide in turn four, giving Bettencourt the advantage. Joe Melberg was up to the wall on the backstretch for the final caution and a green-white-checker restart.
It was the same front six orientation. This time, Bettencourt pulled away out of the box and Hanafin drove in under Bruneau. It was door-to-door for second through the white flag lap for second. Bettencourt roared home for his victory while Hanafin pulled off a .21 second edge to claim the runnerup spot over Bruneau. Beal, Lovelace, Scott and Crystal filled the slots behind them. Berthelette, Pianka, Blaise and Lallier followed. Berthelette had the quickest lap at 15.030, while Bruneau was second fastest at 15.068 with Scott just .002 off Bruneau’s pace.